Felony Murder Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

The felony murder doctrine states that unintended deaths that occur during the course of committing another felony are murders. The doctrine does not require an intent to kill. In some cases the conviction for murder is sustained when a codefendant did the actual killing. Even if the death were accidental, all of the participants can be found guilty of felony murder, including those who did no harm, had no gun, and/or did not intend to hurt anyone.

Some states have by statute elevated felony murder cases to murder in the first degree. Such statutes typically define the felony murder as where the homicide or death of a victim occurs accidentally or otherwise as a result of injuries received in the commission or the attempt to commit a specified felony, such as arson, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, escape from lawful custody, and manufacturing or delivering of a controlled substance, where the defendant participated in such commission or attempt to commit one or more of these enumerated felonies.